Orthopaedic Procedures

Irrigation, Debridement & Aspirates


The term 'debride' means to remove damaged or infected tissue, usually tendons and muscle.


Irrigation, or 'washing out' is performed when joints or wounds become dirty or contaminated in some way. Irrigation is often used when:

  • An injury has occured that has damaged the skin, allowing germs and bacteria to enter the body
  • A joint has become infected (see septic arthritis) or inflamed (see gout, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • A joint is painful, and there are thought to be microscopic loose bodies (like chips of cartilage) causing irritation

Irrigation is often also used during surgeries, like arthroscopy, to keep the joint flushed and reduce the risk of post-operation infection.

The liquid used in irrigation is not normal tap water, but a specially cleaned ('sterile'), slightly salty fluid. This is designed to reduce irritation to the body.

It is important to keep in mind that irrigation does not completely remove all bacteria, just a large proportion of free bacteria.


When doctors require a small sample of fluid from a joint, they use a needle to take an 'aspirate'. This allows:

  • Diagnosis
  • Relieve symptoms, eg pressure, infection


13 February, 2012